Earthy fantasy

Ray Bradbury’s science fiction was deeply anchored in the here and now

Written by The Indian Express | Published:June 8, 2012 3:09 am

Ray Bradbury’s science fiction was deeply anchored in the here and now

Ray Bradbury,fantasist and exuberant storyteller,who died on Tuesday,has been categorised as a science fiction author. He was credited with liberating the genre from the pulp ghetto it languished in for so long. But it was a classification he didn’t agree with. To his mind,he wrote only one science fiction novel,Fahrenheit 451,perhaps his most famous work. Indeed,if science fiction is distinguished by copious descriptions of technological and scientific futurism,Bradbury rarely fits the bill. He was more interested in using science as a tool to hold up a mirror to society,or to capture the worst,most destructive elements of human nature,both of which he did to great effect.

The Martian Chronicles,allegorical short stories first published as a collection in 1950,is a melancholic,deeply tragic rumination of the colonisation of Mars by humans,whose own world is dying. It is haunted by the spectre of nuclear annihilation that loomed ominously during the Cold War. In Fahrenheit 451,which refers to the exact temperature at which paper ignites,Bradbury imagines a dystopia wherein a totalitarian state mandates book burning,warning of the dangers of censorship — a theme that runs through most of his work.

Much of Bradbury’s work — Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes,for instance — is concerned with the magical sensibility of childhood,and the accessibility of his writing made his work popular with young readers. He was a gifted stylist,energetic and romantic as a writer,skilled at twinning fantastical descriptions of lands far away with an earthiness that anchored those worlds in the here and now.

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